How to Fall in Love in the City of Love

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, Feb 26, 2008

Dharma-Inspired Movie Review:

True love does not centre around you, for it has no boundaries. - stonepeace

Singapore -- The last story in the film "Paris, je t'aime" (Paris, I Love You), which is an anthology of 21 love stories, is the unlikeliest but perhaps the best in the collection - "14th Arrondissement" by Alexander Payne.

Not a lovey-dovey romance, it might seem "mystical", but it is about a very real and basic aspect of love. Carole is a middle-aged woman (played by Margo Martindale), who strolls Paris on a solo tour, as her thoughts are narrated to the audience - "... They say it (Paris) is where people go and find something new in their life. They say it is where you can find love... Didn't expect to find. But I am not a sad person. On the contrary, I'm a happy person with many friends and two wonderful dogs. It's just that sometimes, I wish I had someone to share things with. For example, when I see all of Paris from a skyscraper, I wanted to say to someone - 'Isn't that beautiful?' But there was nobody there...

Then I found a lovely little park. I sat down in the park and ate a sandwich that I bought. It tasted very good. Then something happened. Something difficult to describe. (She looks around at the happy adults and kids having their park activities.) Sitting there alone in a foreign country far from my job and everyone I know, a feeling came to me. It was like remembering something I had never known before or had always been waiting for, without knowing what it was. Maybe it was something I've been missing all my life. All I can say is that I felt, at the same time, joy and sadness. But not much sadness because I felt alive. Yes, alive. That was when I fell in love with Paris. And I felt Paris fell in love with me."

Most, despite being loving in nature, feel the desire to be personally loved, to have someone always there for them. This subtle sense of aloneness arises from a sense of existential alienation or disconnectedness from the world and others. This "need" to connect is however an illusion, as there is essentially no other fixed self to attach to, just as there is no self with which we attach to another. All is already "one" in change. Maybe what she discovered was newfound awareness of her situation, coupled with full acceptance of it, without wanting anything else in the moment. She was taking a break after touring a relatively unspectacular part of Paris. With expectations at rest, what arose was an overwhelming sense of contentment, that could not be named because it was unconditional, not based on anything.

Carole embraced her emotions as they were without rejection - the "ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows". Mindful embracing is always more joyous than sad. In fact, she embraced everything before her as they were, including the underlying sadness that comes from basic existential dissatisfaction (Dukkha) in life. That was why she felt that she had fallen in (unconditional) love with wherever she was. Even though it might have lasted only for a while, it was enough to inspire her for life. With this loving-kindness enveloping her and overflowing from her, she naturally felt the world being loving to her. You can have such an experience too - by practising Metta (loving-kindness) meditation. True peace and understanding arise not from the world, but from personal cultivation of calmness and insight, which can be nurtured via the practice of Samatha and Vipassana meditation respectively. 

Carole had made peace with herself, thus readily making peace with the world too. Peace in Buddhism requires the factor of equanimity, the balanced state of mind beyond polaristic attachment and aversion to anything, including joy and sadness. True love must be equanimous (the fourth of the four sublime states of mind), while encompassing loving-kindness, compassion and appreciative joy (the other three states). A deep experience of this would be similar to the experience of this world as a Pure Land. It is possible even for usually non-spiritual people to have such purified "glimpses" once in a while. The problem is not knowing what they mean, how they arise, and how to sustain or rekindle them. They might be labelled the grace of a greater power, but are in reality one's own graciousness at work - one's Buddha-nature!

Love is not to be found just in Paris. It is to first be found in your mind, wherever you are. The environment you are in can urge you to be find it though. This is why people go on pilgrimages, for the taking of a physical journey can aid the spiritual journey of nurturing compassion and wisdom within. Paris is probably dubbed "the city of love" because most who live there, and those who are attracted there are of a similar state of mind - of being romantic, of wanting to feel romance. Love birds of a karmic feather flock together! If Carole was a bitter person, she would not had found the extraordinary love she did - not by herself or with anyone else, for love is realised only by being loving, whether anyone loves you or not. However, as Stonepeace put it in terms of karmic attraction, "To find true love, be truly loving."

Carole did not find something new; what found was a vision of something fundamental - her true nature. As she did not crave a lot for love, greed fell away while a great sense of gratitude arose, as she simply basked in the moment, appreciating it as it was. These too, are aspects of equanimity. Previously, she had thought she was already a relatively happy person, though she had a quiet yearning. What she discovered was a greater happiness - a state of blissfulness without this yearning, which probably arose from her ability to rejoice in the happiness of those around her with no jealousy, thus ending her subtle unhappiness, while increasing her happiness.

Taking a retreat from the known, we retreat into ourselves and discover the unknown. Immersing in the unfamiliar can help us reconnect with what is essentially the most intimate yet continually missed part of ourselves - our pure Buddha-nature. This explains why her experience was paradoxically refreshing yet familiar, why it resonates with the audience in an indefinable way, just as it did for her. Our fundamental ignorance is not recognising our fundamental nature, which is always available to us, even if we seldom make ourselves available to it. Deep down, we all know we can awaken, which is why we might catch ourselves waiting for what we know is better, yet not knowing it yet. Carole felt truly alive because it is as if she had given herself a new lease of life by her radical change of mind. Though not fully enlightened, it was the beginning of more genuine living and loving. Have you truly fallen in love yet?

Nothing is more romantic than expanding the love of one to love of all. – stonepeace

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: